Bangalore on 77 Ruppees

In the past few years, Bangalore has become an exceedingly expensive city. By some estimates, properly values have risen by 25% since 2009 and informally, I have been told that rent increases 11% each year.

There are, of course, ways to keep one’s expenses at bay while living in a relatively central location, commuting to a different part of the city, and not doing very much cooking, but it isn’t a very sustainable life-style. The following is a day in Bangalore, on 77 rupees, the most I have been able to decrease my expenses in one day without collapsing.

6:30AM – Wake up and do yoga. Yoga classes cost money, which is why Youtube is your new best friend. You do not have internet at home, however, so do open and load the video elsewhere the night before.

Yoga class: Free

7:00AM – Realize that it is 7:00AM, and panic. The train is coming in 19 minutes and you’re still sweaty from your morning work-out! Pour a bucket of water over yourself, throw on whatever kurti looks the least wrinkled, and douse yourself in that bottomless tube of Clinique Happy you’ve owned since middle school.

Throwback to 7th grade: free.

7:10AM – Leave home and walk briskly toward Bangalore East Railway station, approximately one kilometer from home. At the 7:17AM mark, start running.  

Morning run: Free

7:19AM – You have just entered the train station and spot your train, ready to depart, on the other side of the station! There is no time to take the over-bridge, so jump down onto the tracks, jump over the railing (or walk until there is a break, if your train hasn’t started moving yet), cross the tracks on the other side, and pull yourself up onto the train as it slowly pulls out of the station.

Look both ways and GO!

Upper-body exercise: Free

7:26 – 7:45 – Depending on the day, you will either reach Baiyappanahalli Railway Station in seven minutes, twenty minutes or never. 

Train fare: 2 rupees

The journey from Bangalore East to Baiyappanahalli.

7:50AM – The beauty of the Baiyappanahalli Train Station is that it adjoins Baiyappanahalli Metro Station, and hardly anyone uses the metro in  Bangalore. Board the metro, take your seat (or splay out across five seats, if you please) and gaze at Bangalore’s many hidden slums. If this gets boring, you can listen to the metro robot’s amusing Hindi. “Ag-la sta-tion Swami Vi-ve-ka-nanda road….(5 second pause) HAI!”

Metro fare from Baiyapanahalli to Indiranagar, with metro card: 10 rupeess

Hindi lesson: free

8:00AM – Get down at Indiranagar and walk about a kilometer to work.

Yet more exercise: free

10:00AM – It is now time for breakfast, and a two-minute walk brings you to a wonderful little dosa joint. Be sure to come before 10:30AM, however, as Shakti’s Dosa House (known to me only as the “pet shop”) is very popular and the idly will be khatam hogya if you don’t come on the dot. The owner’s glowing smile will then droop into a mustachioed little frown.

This is Shakti Shiva’s Dosa Shop, known simply as “the pet shop.” I used to walk by this lovely little eatery every day, assuming it was a pet shop! One day my colleague informed me that it was a “hotel,” and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Tate idly: 10 rupees each

13:30 – After a long hard day of doing whatever it is you are doing, the time has come to eat. Make your way to the pet shop and ask for “ond south Indian meals.” Here, 25 ruppees gets you subzi, a chapatti, a mysterious fried ball of something, more rice than anyone could possibly eat, sambar, rasam, achchar, and a pappad. Wash your hands before you head over to the pet shop, however, as requests for soap will only yield laughter and, after some confusion, a clumpy old ball of Tide laundry detergent. Your claws have never smelled so Xtra Klean.

Old clump of Tide laundry detergent: free

One South Indian meals: 25 rupees

13:35 – Eat your “meals” and attempt to finish as much of the rice as possible. Packing a parcel lunch is actually preferable, as the pet shop gives you enough food for both lunch and dinner. Eat half of the rice with your little baggy of sambar-wambar, and save the baggy of rasam-wasam for dinner. The pet shop does not charge extra for take-out, distinguishing it from most other lunch spots in the area.

Parcel: free

13:50 – Head back to the office, and do more office work.

Walk in breezy, leafy Indiranagar: free

14:30 – The chai-wallah will bring tea to the office, if he is in a good mood that day.

Afternoon chai: free

17:00 or 17:45 – Head to the metro station and take the metro to Baiyapannahalli.

Metro fare: 10 rupees

16:00 – Find a comfortable place to sit, as the Bangarpet train which takes you to Bangalore East will be anywhere from 25 minutes to one hour late. Children will begin to ask you questions in Kannada, and you will inevitably talk about “oota” (food) because that is the only word you know in their language. 

Kannada Lesson #1: free

17:50 or 18:20 – Board the train, which is of course 20-40 minutes late, for Bangalore East. The train will be packed with riff-raff from Bangarpet, some of whom smell like urine and alcohol. Locate a woman – any woman – and cling to her with your Xtra Klean claws. If adult men ask you take photographs with them, start talking about how much you miss your village in Waziristan.

Train fare: 2 rupees

18:00, 18:40, 19:00, 19:50, 20:00, sometimes even 20:10 – Arrive at Bangalore East Railway Station, and curse whoever caused your 3.5 kilometer journey from the office to Frazertown to swell to 3 hours.

Evening call to prayer on the way home: free

20:30 – It is now time for dinner, but you have no desire to cook “oota.” Luckily, your pet shop rice hasn’t spoiled yet, and you still have a little baggy of rasam-wasam. Heat up your rasam wasam and enjoy your meal while listening to a previously downloaded episode of Planet Money.

Quirky economic knowledge: free

Dinner: free (previously paid for)

20:50 – The night is still young, so go for a walk. This being Frazertown, you can venture outside anytime before 12:00AM in order to soak up the sights and sounds (garbage, rats and honking) of beautiful Mosque Road. Conversely, you can entertain yourself by counting how many posters of himself your Almighty Ward Corporator, Master of Cleanliness and All That is Good in This World, AR Zakir, has put up in and around Frazertown.

Evening stroll: free

21:01 – Just as More Supermarket is about to close, you remember that you need yogurt for an evening snack. You run to the store and the guard tells you that the store is closed. You act confused and counter with “bbbbhhhaaaaiiiyyyyaa, mosaru bekuuuuuu!” You enter the store as he keeps repeating, “please ma’am, close close!”

21:02 – You purchase a small container of yogurt, and the friendly young cashier who has been teaching you Kannada words reviews: “mosaru.” Two whole words – you’re almost fluent in Kannada now! You leave the store, and the security guard glares at you.

Yogurt: 18 rupees

Kannada lesson #2: free

EXPENSES FOR DAY: 77 rupees.


MOOD AT END OF DAY: Slightly grumpy 

As an undergraduate, Marina conducted fieldwork in Ukraine on Roma health and later wrote an Honors Thesis on the basis of that material. Her interest in public health and minority issues led her to intern with the US Department of Health and Human Services and several human rights groups. After completing a year of AmeriCorps service in the research and evaluation department of an NGO that helps incarcerated individuals, Marina traveled to Ukraine on a 10-month Fulbright research grant. During her time in Ukraine, she researched an indigenous group known as the Crimean Tatars and became active in youth group that promotes ethnic tolerance in Crimea. Marina speaks Russian and Turkish and is a strong proponent of the use of evaluation in international development programs.

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